Reviews

'Take Me Home Tonight' Is Pure '80s Retread

Take Me Home Tonight sticks pretty close to the conventions of the genre, while managing to be harmlessly amusing.


Take Me Home Tonight

Director: Michael Dowse
Cast: Topher Grace, Teresa Palmer, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler
Rated: R
Studio: Rogue Pictures
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-03-04 (General release)
UK date: 2011-05-13 (General release)
Website
Trailer

Take Me Home Tonight is the latest Hollywood comedy that posit that all problems of young adulthood are solved through one long night of sustained party-hopping. Matt (Topher Grace) graduated from MIT, moved back into his parents’ house, and took a job at a video store. In his mind, however, his greatest regret is that he never asked out his high school crush, Tori (Teresa Palmer). Such regret makes him act out when Tori walks into his video store, an event that sets off a chain of lies and bad decisions that are typical of movies like this one. Unfortunately for Take Me Home Tonight, this shtick has been done far better before, including in two recent high school movies -- Superbad and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist -- both of which had more wit and heart.

It doesn’t help that the movie is set in the 1980s. Like most movies set in that decade, it uses the time period as a crutch, falling back on tired jokes based on wine coolers, skinny ties, and pastel polo shirts -- none of which is inherently funny. Trapped in a loop of clichés backed by a Duran Duran soundtrack, the '80s remain the only decade that has not inspired a single filmmaker to make a personal and affecting movie.

Films set in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s -- American Graffiti, Diner, Dazed and Confused, and Almost Famous -- have revealed serious subtexts, looking back on them through the lens of teenagers and 20somethings struggling to come of age. But movies about the '80s typically miss their potential substance. This was the decade that started with the Iran hostage crisis and ended with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, after all, and grappled with the threat of nuclear war and the emergence of AIDS. There’s plenty of material to mine.

Maybe the problem is that the movies that were actually made in the ‘80s, such as Risky Business, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and the entire John Hughes canon, both reflect concerns of the era and feed our nostalgia for it so effectively that today’s filmmakers feel absolved of any responsibility to focus on it in their work.

Or, we could blame The Wedding Singer for unfairly defining the decade for a generation of Hollywood decision-makers. Admittedly, it was a really funny movie. Besides being Adam Sandler’s best flick, it captured the era's kitschiness with such precision that every ‘80s themed movie since seems compelled to mimic it.

Whatever the reason, the result is that no one makes movies about the ‘80s, but instead everyone makes movies about ‘80s movies. Take Me Home Tonight is no exception.

None of this is fair to Take Me Home Tonight, which doesn’t really have lofty aspirations. It is not trying to define the ‘80s, but merely to tell another familiar tale about aimless youth. For the most part, it does so by evoking John Hughes, until Matt and his friends find a bag of cocaine and the scene shifts to an investment banker’s mansion in the Los Angeles hills. Here the film briefly feels like it could veer more toward Bret Easton Ellis. That might have been interesting, but it doesn't happen. Instead, Take Me Home Tonight sticks pretty close to the conventions of the genre, while managing to be harmlessly amusing.

Perhaps the most distracting thing is that the movie would have worked just as well if set in the present day. The characters all seem like they are dressed up to go out to an ‘80s theme night, rather than actually being in the ‘80s. There isn’t a cell phone in sight, but it kind of feels like they all have them in their pockets.

Moreover, Take Me Home Tonight is constantly referencing ‘80s movies without fully owning up to it, as when they steal a convertible à la Ferris Bueller or when Matt is about to do something stupid and echoes Tom Cruise’s famous line in Risky Business. But instead of saying, “Sometimes you’ve just got to say, ‘What the fuck?’,” which inspired a generation to throw caution to the wind (or at least wear Ray Bans to school), Matt lets loose with “Fuck it.” It almost feels like he was worried that if he said the whole line, he wouldn’t be able to fit his sentiment into a tweet.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image